In September 2013 Veolia, a transnational corporation that contracts with the City of Boston to transport school students, began an illegal lockout of Boston public school bus drivers for protesting the company’s union busting practices. Veolia officials fired four leading members of the Boston School Bus Drivers Union in an attempt to weaken the union and move forward with privatization plans. In response to the firings, Keegan O’Brien reports for Socialist Worker, “the union has spent the past year building a vocal, public campaign win reinstatement for the union leaders and force an end to the company’s anti-union attack.”
In June 2014 Boston Public Schools (BPS) officials announced that, due to budget pressures, they would no longer provide free busing to middle school students. The decision, which BPS officials touted as saving the district eight million dollars in annual expense and providing students with more convenient, faster transportation, severely sets back the public school busing program that members of Boston’s Black communities fought for and won in the 1970s “as part of the battle to desegregate the city’s public school system and end the practice of de facto educational apartheid.” As Sofia Arias reports, the BPS decision undermines federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity’s 1974 ruling that Boston Public Schools were unconstitutionally segregated and would need to be integrated through busing. The cut of the public school-busing program also gives more power to Veolia in its continuing effort to break local unions and privatize public bus lines.
In areas all over the world, Veolia is reaping the benefits of bus privatization often at the expense of the public good. For example, Veolia has come under scrutiny for its role in a consortium that operated the Jerusalem Light Railway connecting illegal Israeli settlements to West Jerusalem, as well as segregated bus lines that connected these settlements. Public pressure—including protests in Boston that joined by members of the bus drivers union—forced Veolia to publicly claim that it no longer operates buses on those routes.
The story of BPS ending its busing program for middle school students and Veolia’s interest has received some local coverage, but little or no national coverage.
Keith O’ Brien, “Boston School Bus Drivers Won’t Back Down,” Socialist Worker, September 10, 2014, http://socialistworker.org/2014/09/10/boston-bus-drivers-wont-give-up.
Sofia Arias, “Fighting Again for Busing in Boston” Socialist Worker, June 10, 2014, http://socialistworker.org/2014/06/10/fighting-again-for-busing.
Student Researcher: Antonio Sanderson (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)